Thursday, March 29, 2007

The ever resourceful Ms.Anon, on one of her secret missions, unearthed this botheration for me. Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake are on it, a page a day ishtyle (yeah botheration is a fitting name ;) but so are Alice in Wonderland and check out the rest yourself lazybones.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Play the First Few Lines game

Take a look at Borges on the Argentine 2 pesos

Read Latin for beginners

Walk through Time
(btw, Time is man-made you know)

Don't always answer the phone

...some To Do lists!

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Interviewer: Does a reader need to read all of your books to fully understand your work?

Marias: No, my books are linked in many aspects, but they are separate books. But I don't understand what is meant by being "fully understood." You don't write books to be understood, do you? That is not the reason for doing it.

(Source: The Paris Review, Art of Fiction No.190, Javier Marias)

The only advice I can give is to read others, get what you can out of a book and make your own interpretation of what the author is saying.
Don't get hung up on critics and all that madness. Blend in your experiences, without writing facts, and use your creativity. Plan your stories and don't make rash decisions. Then, when it's finished, you're in your own stew...

(Source: Catching the "Catcher in the Rye" J.D.Salinger by Michael Clarkson from If You Really Want to Hear About It)

Completion does not mean that everything has been told. Henry James, as he was coming to the end of writing one of his greatest novels, The Portrait of a Lady, confided to himself in his notebook his worry that his readers would think that the novel was not really finished, that he had "not seen the heroine to the end of her situation". (As you will remember, James leaves his heroine, the brilliant and idealistic Isabel Archer, resolved not to leave her husband, whom she has discovered to be a mercenary scoundrel, though there is a former suitor, the aptly named Caspar Goodwood, who, still in love with her, hopes she will change her mind.) But, James argued to himself, his novel would be rightly finished on this note. As he wrote: "The whole of anything is never told; you can only take what groups together. What I have done has that unity - it groups together. It is complete in itself."

(More such in the Susan Sontag Essay, Pay Attention to the World in the Guardian)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Ulysses Reading Diary - 1

March 15, 2007
Started Ulysses...yes,yes, James Joyce's Ulysses...for the nth time. But under different circumstances. For instance
a) reading for the first time from my own copy
b) flitted through the first 20 pages easily. Seemed to get most of it too, which is surprising
c) am reading it on a bet

I bet JM hasn't started reading yet. I must preen if he calls. Haines has just offered Dedalus a cigarette...

March 17, 2007
Am so groggy. Haven't slept all night. The cough is killing me. Why oh why did I have to read Ulysses first thing this morning. I feel awful. Two pages is enough to make me nauseous.

March 18, 2007
At page 53. Could not read much in the last two days. The cough is so troublesome. The hours have been long, disturbed. Nothing much has happened yet in the book. Unless of course the density of the sentences are meant to make you miss. Each line is loaded with allusions. Some, surprisingly, I do understand. Bloom hasn't made an appearance yet. Maybe he will in Chapter 2?

Thankfully, my copy of Ulysses is set in a comfortable font size.

March 20, 2007
Spent all day at the hospital welcoming my newest nephew. Am a mami all over again. I was idiot enough to carry Ulysses along hoping to read a bit during the wait. Remember to tell everyone never to attempt reading the book in a hospital. Manguel's Through the Looking Glass Wood was a happy consolation. Otherwise I would have had to be content looking at the rooftop.

March 21, 2007
How did I get to 100 pages of Ulysses without skipping lines? I am queasy again. Is there any way I can put off the bet without meeting the deal? Think...

What a wonderful coincidence! JM called. I waited for him to tell me he hadn't started reading yet. And he did. He mentioned that we could possibly push the deadline to May 31st. I think I was too gleeful. He then tossed Apr 30th. I told him if he got through the first 50 pages without once complaining, then I shall consider the new dates. We shall take stock on March 29. The man suggested a reading guide for the book! On second thoughts, it is not such a bad idea...

Man goes for a walk around Dublin. Nothing Happens
The book is pretentious hogwash, a classic because the pretentious, intellectual mafia say it is. Don't waste your time on this drivel.
Paul Burns, Liverpool England
(JM, hear hear!)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

It started at the Guardian I think, the buzz about top 10 unread books or some such. Anyway, what caught my eye in this article:
James Joyce's notoriously impenetrable masterpiece Ulysses came in third. Ulysses was also one of the most popular books that respondents admitted they buy for decoration, rather than for reading purposes.

Sometime ago I did buy my own copy of Ulysses, hardly for decoration though. I bought it because I was fed up of borrowing it from the library and then returning it unread every time. What if I suddenly woke up one day with the urge to read it and then also got it? Therefore it made sense to own a copy.

Last week, rather rashly, I got into a horrid bet with a friend. The deal is to finish Ulysses by end of March (both of us have the same target). If both finish, then we gift each other reward books of our choice (I've asked for The Last Mughal). But if we both don't finish, horror oh horror, we've agreed to do the one thing that we have been putting off for years. I shall not admit to what I've stupidly agreed to. I only hope I read the book and save my skin.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Women and a Day

When it comes to celebrating This Day and That Day, I am a skeptic. Why bother with labels I’ve always felt. But that doesn’t stop me from walking around the house with a huge grin on my birthday, as if I were the one who said, let there be light. And that doesn’t stop me from wishing other women on March eighth either. But toss the label feminist at me and I’ll start looking wary. Tell me I don’t care about women or their rights and you might hear a lecture on how you cannot understand women, much less accept them as they are without your concealed smirk. Didn’t I mention the problem with labels?

As I am writing this post, I am wondering why I am trying to explain that I have a problem with labels. Isn’t this whole explaining deal the deep pit into which women fall all the time? We are women, we have the right to exist, we don’t like being looked at, we love our babies, we hate doing the dishes, we feel like the doormat, we want equal opportunity...on and on we try and explain while all that gets heard is we need attention. Yes, that is what we need, attention. So that you can see that we are not doing all that okay and that we are not okay about all that. But who is this you now? The man? The one who has to get saddled with the label because he doesn’t fit into the ‘we’? And why are we still seeking his acknowledgement of our existence, his approval of our conduct?

For centuries, most of the world has been shaped by the Paters, who found it very convenient, by virtue of collective indolence, and easy, by virtue of physical strength, to continue with the ancient nomadic order where the male remained the hunter and the female, the gatherer. Successive inheritance of the old order meant that the male belief in his superiority was strengthened (learning by example) and the female belief in her secondary status was strengthened. In addition, the female also passed on to her daughters, the angst that arose from not understanding why she could not do as she wished and why the male always chose for her. Centuries later, even in an urban setting where the few barriers that need to be broken are glass, the woman is still playing out that angst in ways that even she cannot understand. Her writing would be a good example, as Virginia Woolf points out, when talking about Charlotte Bronte, in A Room of One’s Own, ‘[Bronte] had more genius in her than Jane Austen’ but let her books be ‘deformed and twisted’ because ‘she will write in a rage where she should write calmly. She will write foolishly where she should write wisely. She will write of herself where she should write of her characters.’

A few pages later in that same book, Woolf wonders why the famous four of the nineteenth century, The Brontë sisters, George Eliot and Jane Austen, wrote novels instead of say poetry or plays:
But why, I could not help asking, as I ran my eyes over them, were they, with very few exceptions, all novels? The original impulse was to poetry. The ‘supreme head of song’ was a poetess. Both in France and in England the women poets precede the women novelists. Moreover, I thought, looking at the four famous names, what had George Eliot in common with Emily Brontë? Did not Charlotte Brontë fail entirely to understand Jane Austen? Save for the possibly relevant fact that not one of them had a child, four more incongruous characters could not have met together in a’ room so much so that it is tempting to invent a meeting and a dialogue between them. Yet by some strange force they were all compelled when they wrote, to write novels. Had it something to do with being born of the middle class, ‘I asked; and with the fact, which Miss Emily Davies a little later was so strikingly to demonstrate, that the middleclass family in the early nineteenth century was possessed only of a single sitting–room between them? If a woman wrote, she would have to write in the common sitting–room. And, as Miss Nightingale was so vehemently to complain,—”women never have an half hour . . . that they can call their own”—she was always interrupted. Still it would be easier to write prose and fiction there than to write poetry or a play. Less concentration is required. Jane Austen wrote like that to the end of her days. ‘How she was able to effect all this’, her nephew writes in his Memoir, ‘is surprising, for she had no separate study to repair to, and most of the work must have been done in the general sitting–room, subject to all kinds of casual interruptions. She was careful that her occupation should not be suspected by servants or visitors or any persons beyond her own family party. Jane Austen hid her manuscripts or covered them with a piece of blotting–paper. Then, again, all the literary training that a woman had in the early nineteenth century was training in the observation of character, in the analysis of emotion. Her sensibility had been educated for centuries by the influences of the common sitting–room. People’s feelings were impressed on her; personal relations were always before her eyes. Therefore, when the middle–class Woman took to writing, she naturally wrote novels, even though, as seems evident enough, two of the four famous women here named were not by nature novelists. Emily Brontë should have written poetic plays; the overflow of George Eliot’s capacious mind should have spread itself when the creative impulse was spent upon history or biography. They wrote novels, however;
Women and writing aside, what about women and history? The few who made it to the largely androgenic history of the ages did so because they landed up performing masculine activities like ruling or toppling empires and nations. History is a narrative of power, of which the average female was but a receptor for centuries. In Austen’s Northanger Abbey, there is an oft quoted snippet of a conversation where Catherine Morland replies to the remark:

"Yes, I am fond of history."

"I wish I were too. I read it a little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all -- it is very tiresome:"

While we are at the quoting and digging of the past, let us also take a peek at women and art. Germaine Greer (source: The Penguin Book of Art Writing), in an answer to the question why there were few major women painters, said:
The reason is simply that you cannot make great artists out of egos that have been damaged, with wills that are defective, with libidos that have been driven out of reach and energy diverted into neurotic channels.
The background prepared by centuries of conditioning is dying a slow death, both in the seemingly exaggerated angst of women and in the seemingly nonchalant response of men. We do not always understand that we inherit some of the roles we play. That is why labels like feminism and chauvinism are scary because they hammer you into other narrow holes without quite meaning to. That is why I wonder if Women’s Day must be explained.

I’ve been writing this post since morning, with several casual interruptions, some welcome and some necessary. Among the welcome ones were the number of women friends of mine who called and asked, where is your usual Women’s Day email dear? I thought I’ll see it the first thing this morning. And I answered how I was still struggling to write something, not quite sure what it is that I wanted to say and why. It is early evening already and I can see three pages lined up, explaining while questioning the very act. I think it will take us some more years to stop giving reasons, to stop seeing ourselves in relation to others while loudly claiming otherwise. Meanwhile, we will write and say Happy Women’s Day still wondering why you need a reason to be kind.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Links to go...

Confessions of a book abuser - articles of such nature keep cropping up every now and then. Reminded me of Anne Fadiman's Ex-Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, which talks about courtly lovers of books and many other such book handling mannerisms. The reference to the courtly lovers of books, in turn, reminded me of judging a book by its cover, which I re-read recently. Incidentally, I found that Anne Fadiman is the daughter of Clifton Fadiman, famous for many things including the lifetime reading plan.

For the Toor Dal aware, here is the Mahanandi page on it, along with a wonderful recipe for pappu chaaru.

Identity Theory's Best of 2006. I always trip on these Best of articles links!

It looks like a week of Helen of Troy at Pigmentium. Now, is this series a Women's Day special offering?

I don't know how I feel about Becoming Jane. Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen? I like both but I wonder how it will be. For instance, I've always assumed Jane Austen was short. A taller-than-assumption Austen will be too much to take I think.

There is this very eerie feeling when I read articles like Enchantment of Air and Water, a review of the book The Unknown Monet..., because they say some things that I had just thought of in the days prior to reading the piece. Yeah, yeah, you are thinking about how words we've just learnt start showing up on newspapers soon after. Probably that is what is the Monet thing too. It happened a week ago with a Renoir article. And then I am seeing Cezanne skies as well. Sigh.

More mentions of The Top Ten.